Editorial: July 2008
God placed man in the Garden of Eden and gave man the opportunity to obey Him and lead the human race to eternal blessing. The solicitation to sin came through the serpent. Although the serpent was the one who spoke, it was Satan who engineered the temptation. He was crafty (Matt.10:16). He knew that questions were always more effective than statements. Through the serpent, he raised doubt about God's Word (Gen.3:1). God had told man: "You shall not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." Satan lied saying: "You surely will not die" (Gen.3:4). Eve submitted to the temptation, committing sin in the manner common to the human race: through the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life (1 Jn.2:16). Eve was deceived, but Adam also participated in the sin (1 Tim.2:14). Adam realised what he was doing, and hence he constituted the first sinner (Rom.5:1-21).
Man believed Satan's lie over God's truth. Every sin starts with a disbelief in what God has said in His Word and then disobeying. The truth believed and obeyed sets us free (Jn.8:31-32). But, the truth rejected and disobeyed makes us slaves. Jesus said: "I am the way, the truth and the life." Mosaic Law lets us know the standard God requires us to meet for calling us righteous. Man deviated from the straight path and fell short of God's standard (Rom.2:14, 15, 23; 4:15). It involves both acts (commissions and omissions) and attitudes. Sin is transgression of the law of God, missing the mark of God's standard for all people, i.e., the holiness of God as seen in Jesus Christ. It has the power to deceive men and lead them to destruction (Heb.3:13). It involves "ungodliness and unrighteousness of men" (Rom. 1:18). But the good news is that Jesus has broken the power and hold of sin over us. When a person confesses his sins, God removes them as far as the east is from the west and remembers them no more.
While remaining sinful, man has always tried to feel good by watering down the requirements. He has tried to make new definitions and lists to make things appear satisfactory and to make himself comfortable. But, man can never violate the laws of God without suffering the consequences. Pope Gregory the Great (540 - 604) catalogued the sins as pride, gluttony, melancholy, lust, greed, envy and anger. Melancholy was dropped in the 17th century in favour of sloth. Aquinas (1225 - 1274) recognised all the seven of them as capital sins. What constituted a willful transgression of the Law of God and which separated man from God were classified as mortal sins; venial sins were those considered only "a deviation from God without sufficient reflection or full consent of the will."
This list of seven could account for virtually all the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind. Anger gives rise to violence, gluttony to waste, pride to every manner of tragedy and hurt. Greed might lead to theft, and lust to adultery. But, the fact that the sin began in the heart should not be lost sight of.
Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667) said: "A man is first startled by sin; then it becomes pleasing, then easy, then delightful, then frequent, then habitual, then confirmed. The man is impenitent, then obstinate, and then he is damned."
Schleiermacher (1763 - 1834) defined sin as occurring "when man tries to live by himself, isolated from the universe and his fellowmen." Niebuhr (1892 - 1971) said that "sin was more social than spiritual, and that evangelistic appeal should be with a view to converting society, not individuals."
Philosopher Mae West observed: "To err is human, but it feels divine." It has become very easy for us to condemn others, yet have the very same sins in our own lives. "We hate our own faults, especially when we see them in others." Our sins look horrible when they are committed by someone else. Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) remarked: "Anybody who has once been horrified by the dreadfulness of his own sin that nailed Jesus to the cross will no longer be horrified by even the rankest sins of a brother."
Gandhiji suggested seven deadly sins: wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, science without humanity, knowledge without character, politics without principle, commerce without morality and worship without sacrifice.
Pope Benedict XVI has recently warned: "We are losing the notion of sin, as attendance at confession plummets. The culture is celebrating what was once sanctioned. Parents now encourage pride as essential to self-esteem; envy is the engine of tabloid culture; lust is an advertising strategy; anger is the righteous province of the aggrieved." Vatican has stressed a broader range of sins in order to address the problem.
Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, Vatican's No.2 official in charge of confessions and penitence, recently announced: "You offend God not only by stealing, blasphemy or coveting your neighbour's wife, but also by polluting, cloning, taking drugs, promoting social injustice, or becoming obscenely rich. Where the standard sins are individual failings, in a global culture, sin is social…. Attention to sin is a more urgent task today, precisely because its consequences are more abundant and more destructive." In keeping with the modern times, Vatican has updated the deadly sins with "social sins" that calls for a green conscience, littering, excessive wealth and drug abuse. The new list is about what separates us from one another; it makes abstract the failings that once were intimate and in the process makes sin smaller, not bigger or more relevant. Private faith is now speaking to public duty. The new list has the following additional sins: Genetic modification, Human experiments such as cloning, Polluting the environment, Causing social injustice, Causing poverty, Becoming obscenely wealthy, and Taking drugs.
Compare these with the sins listed by Apostle Paul: all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness, envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil mindedness, whispering, backbiting, hating God, violence, pride, boasting, inventing evil things, disobedience to parents, undis- cerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful (Rom.1:29-31). They are too vile to define or discuss. Yet they are practised now around the world with the approval of society. "One reason why sin flourishes is that it is treated like a cream puff instead of a rattlesnake."
Christ challenged His detractors: "Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?" His definition of sin penetrates far deeper than any list of sins on a membership card. It goes to our inner desire, motivations and secret thoughts.
Instead of bowing to God in humble gratitude, people harden their hearts and commit more sin, thinking that God loves them too much to condemn them. God's judgement will not be according to our opinions and evaluations; it will be according to truth. "He who does not forbid sin when he can, encourages it."
God judges mankind accor- ding to the deeds performed in the course of life. God is no respecter of persons, but judges all mankind (every soul) on the basis of the lives they have lived.
Religion has become a matter of outward ceremony and not inward reality. The Gospel of Christ demands an inward change: "You must be born again" (Jn.3:7). It is not obedience to a religious system that will allow one to pass the test when Christ judges the secrets of one's hearts. Bishop Richard Harris pointed out: "The sins of the bedroom are not the only ones. The sins of the boardroom should be just as much a matter of concern." Temptation is Satan testing your allegiance to God. Sin is not only an act of wrongdoing, but a state of alienation from God. It signifies the rupture of a personal relationship with God, a betrayal of the trust He places in us. We become aware of our sinfulness in the presence of the holy God (Isa.6:5; Psa.51:1-9; Lk.5:8). Sinful acts originate in a corrupt heart (Gen.6:5; Isa.29:13). Sin is universal. "All have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom.3:23).
There are some who claim that humans have "evolved" from primitive, ignorant, beast-like forms into the marvellous creature. Apostle Paul says just the opposite: man began as the highest of God's creatures, but he made himself into a beast! Therefore, God has given them up to uncleanness and idolatry (Rom. 1:24-25), vile passions (Rom.1:26-27) and reprobate mind (Rom.1:28).
Sin has placed man in the hopeless position of being separated from God and unable to bring himself back to God (Rom.3:19-20; Gal.3:10). God, however, has not left man in this helpless condition. Through Jesus Christ, God has reversed the effects of Adam's sin (Rom.5:6, 8,15,18).
Because of Adam's one act of disobedience, death, the penalty of sin, passed on all mankind. Because of Christ's one act of obedience (death on the cross), life, the free gift of God, became available to all mankind. Adam by his sin brought condemnation. Christ, by His death, brought justification and brought repentant sinners into a right relationship with a just and holy God. Genuine confession brings God's gracious forgiveness (Matt.6:12-15; 1 Jn.1:6-10; 2:1-2; 3:10).
Every Christian realises that his sinful nature drags him down and tries to enslave him. Not many have entered into the humbling realisation that we are incapable in ourselves of even doing anything good. Many Christians have a set of laws, codes, rules and regulations that they obey religiously in the energy of the flesh, and they think this is dedicated Christian living. Only when the Holy Spirit directs our lives from within and we obey out of a heart of love, can one have God-honouring Christian living. But quite often, "we are too Christian to really enjoy sinning, and too fond of sinning to really enjoy Christianity. Most of us know perfectly well what we ought to do; our trouble is that we do not want to do it."
When Christ died, we died with Him; when He was raised, we were raised to newness of life with Him. He broke the power of sin and destroyed the old nature (Rom.6:6) that "we should no longer be slaves of sin." Those who commit sin are people who yield themselves to the old nature, instead of to the Holy Spirit. "If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him" (Rom.8:9). They are living like slaves when they could be reigning as kings. They have become spiritual casualties. "He that falls into sin is a man; that grieves at it is a saint; that boasts at it is a devil."
Many are living according to man-made rules. Some codes of do's and don'ts have become our standard for living, not the Word of God. We know our traditions well. We are quick to look down on those who do not walk by our code! We nullify the Word of God by our traditions (Matt. 15:6). Isaiah prophesied about us: "They worship Me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men" (Isa. 29:13). Are you a student of God's Word? Or, do you simply live by what you hear others preach? We must constantly measure everything by the plumbline of God's Word.
Christians who spend time with the Word of God will know their position in Christ. They will have the faith to reckon themselves dead to sin and will be able to yield themselves to the indwelling Spirit, obtaining victory. They strive in their own efforts to please God.
The answer to the problem of sin is not simply determination, discipline, reformation, legislation, or any other human endeavour. Our sense of sin is proportional to our nearness to God. Victory comes only through crucifixion and resurrection. May God enable us to reckon ourselves dead to sin, that we might enjoy the blessed liberty of God's children and glorify God in holy living through the power of the Holy Spirit.